Historic Third Ward School Reborn

A historic school in Houston's Third Ward -- that was closed last year because of declining enrollment -- is coming to life again because of Hurricane Katrina. Douglass Elementary School will reopen next week with a new name, as a charter school for children of Louisiana evacuees.

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The Houston School Board has voted to lease the Douglass school property to the KIPP College Preparatory Academy group, which will operate it as a state charter school. As of today, the old school in southeast Houston isn't called Douglass Elementary anymore. It's now the New Orleans West KIPP College Prep Academy, and it's for evacuated New Orleans children only. Principal Gary Robichaux says with more than five thousand Louisiana children in Houston, there's no shortage of students.

Robichaux says when HISD reopened Douglass as a temporary school for evacuee children, KIPP's national directors decided to lease the property and keep it open through May of next year. KIPP has the option of extending the lease if there's still a need for the school, and that could happen because large numbers of evacuee families say they want to stay in Houston. KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program, and it's known for its rigorous approach to education, which Robichaux says is based on high expectations.

KIPP academies also have classes every other Saturday, and Robichaux says the Saturday schedule will be implemented a few weeks from now as their enrollment increases and stabilizes. When does school start at the new KIPP Academy?

Robichaux stresses that the New Orleans West KIPP Academy can only accept children who evacuated from New Orleans, because that's how their charter with the State of Texas is written. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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